Shame Web or Connection Network? Which one is God in for you?
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Last time we questioned whether God was in Your Shame Web or Your Connection Network? This week, we're asking 'why'? For this we can go back to the very beginning. Not much has changed. God's desire for us has always been there just like our shameful knee-jerk reaction has been.
What have we, and God, always done since the beginning?
In the very beginning Adam and Eve lived and literally walked with God in the Garden of Eden. Then one day everything went haywire. Adam and Eve broke the one rule. Don't eat any fruit off of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We find the story in Genesis 3 (Gen 3:6-10, 11-13, 21-24. The Message version).
(v6) When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate. Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on”—saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves. When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God. God called to the Man: “Where are you?” He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.”
Adam and Eve's immediate reaction was to feel that their nakedness was wrong and covered themselves with clothes. Then when God came they hid.
(v11) God said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?” The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.” God said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?” “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate."
Then they each blamed somebody else. So what did God do? He removed them from the Garden so that they couldn't eat from the Tree of Life and live forever separated from God. In His mercy and affection for them, He made them better clothes and safeguarded their future. He has always looked out for us and made the way for us to get back into right relationship with Him. Always bringing us closer and closer to Him.
(v21) God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them. 22 God said, “The Man has become like one of us, capable of knowing everything, ranging from good to evil. What if he now should reach out and take fruit from the Tree-of-Life and eat, and live forever? Never—this cannot happen!” So God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground, the same dirt out of which they’d been made. He threw them out of the garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the Tree-of-Life.
We still see this dynamic today. In her extensive research, Brené Brown found that shame breeds fear, blame and ultimately disconnection. So what can we learn from this age-old pattern? When we feel ashamed God still seeks us out. Even in the midst of our shame, God wants to dialogue with us. He wants to be in our Connection Network. The primary person in our Connection Network actually. However, it is up to each of us individually to decide whether we run from Him in shame or come to Him for healing connection.
So back to the question. "Why?" If God wants to be in our Connection Network, why do we treat Him like He's in our Shame Web? If His affectionate compassionate love compels Him to embrace us with empathy, why does it feel like He is in our Shame Web? Each of our answers are varied and unique to us. However, there are three common Myths, or misunderstandings, that seem to keep God firmly wedged into our Shame Web. Have you been believing any of these myths?
I should feel shame. Shame motivates me to shape up and do better.
Some of us have been taught that God wants us to feel shame and suffer the consequences- fear, blame and disconnection. Believing that those things are the necessary per-requisite to human repentance and self-motivated change. These people are probably confusing guilt and shame. Understanding the distinction between these two makes a big difference. Let's take a look at "Guilt v.s. Shame".
What is it?
GUILT is the belief (and feeling) that we've done something wrong or bad. It is an indicator that tells us that we've stepped into an area that isn't meant for us.
SHAME is the belief (and feeling) that we are wrong or bad. Either as a result of what we've done or as the cause of our wrongdoing. Shame says we are fundamentally unfit for relationship, totally unworthy of love and irrevocably damaged goods.
What's the point of it?
GUILT is designed as a helpful feeling that is strong enough to get our attention and motivate us to deal with whatever our conscious or God is saying is out of line. It is an uncomfortable feeling. Guilt is meant to point out the thing that makes us feel wrong so that we can receive healing and right thinking about it instead of brushing it under the rug and letting the hidden dust pile up and rot. Guilt is appropriate when we need to apologize for the state of our heart and/or actions and repair fractures in relationships. Guilt is an unity-restoring agent. In it's original design, guilt is meant to be a temporary state.
SHAME is designed to destroy relationship. Shame (and subsequently fear, blame and disconnection) sever relationship. In her research, Brené Brown found that shame serves no beneficial purpose. We don't actually become better people or achieve more when we feel separated and unfit for relationship. Shame is an unity-destroying agent. It attaches to our identity and intends to stick around for good.
I'm old enough, and independent enough, that I'm not influenced by my childhood experiences any more. The past is in the past.
True. The past is in the past. However, it also creeps into the present if it's not dealt with. If we believe that our family experiences have had a minimal affect on us, and yet we find God in our Shame Web, it is well worth the effort to look again. You might think, "I don't like my family and I'm not anything like them" or "I never think about my family or childhood any more" or "Things are better with my family now. We've moved on." Time and distance can change some things but by themselves they don't bring healing. It is the healing that we engage with over that time that we are healed. Not necessarily the time itself. Without healing from our past we are most likely still influenced by it. Our worldview has been shaped by these relationships... or the lack thereof. Remove the people from the picture, or add them back in, and the imprint is still left. We relate to God based on those imprints. We call upon our worldviews to answer important questions like these. Am I meant for relationship? Can I ever really trust anybody? Is God really safe as an authority in my life? Is God always critical and never-pleased with me? Could God ever really be interested in me?
I know I can't earn God's love, but I'm pretty sure I can unearn it.
God created us to model His love in the way that we love each other. He purposefully designed us to be influenced by each other. It's a beautiful design. Unfortunately in a fallen world full of hurt people who hurt people, we too often fail to model this divine love. Instead we model that we have to hustle and jockey for our place because Vulnerability leads to Rejection and Acceptance is Conditional. Our life experiences can reinforce these "truths". It's all too easy to subconsciously think "Sure, the Bible says I can't earn God's love, but I'm pretty sure I can unearn it". God gives freely until He knows me well enough that He can see what a disappointment I am. He gives freely because He is good, but I'm so unworthy that He'll eventually catch on and give up on me.
Vulnerability and Rejection Past rejection and/or the possibility of more rejection means we live in a state of guarded, or non-existent, vulnerability. Living without vulnerability can even become so normal we don't realize we aren't being vulnerable. We may easily mistake our own sincerity or honesty for vulnerability. Sometimes people aren't safe for us to be vulnerable with (and it's important to know who those people are). As far as we're concerned, being vulnerable is being vulnerable. It can feel risky and dangerous no matter who we are being vulnerable with. As we close ourselves off from others it's difficult to not also close off God.
Conditional Acceptance Competition. Comparison. Tit for Tat. Scarcity economy. What do these all have in common? They lay the foundation for a worldview where everything is insecure. Everything has to be earned and/or fought for. Including our position, our possessions and even our very place of belonging. In a shame culture, where the perfect is praised and the imperfect is hidden, how could we do anything differently? We might consciously know that God's love can't be earned, but that doesn't mean we don't feel like it can be unearned. Doesn't it seem like He gives so freely, but it's up to us to be good enough to keep it. How many of us have seen this modeled? Fail to live up to expectations and "we're a disappointment." Express our needs and "we're needy." Ask for help and "we're a helpless burden." Fail to please and perform and "this relationship is over."
Which of these myths could you be believing?
Can you see any of these Myths in your worldview? How could things be different if you busted those Myths in your life?
Part 3 looks at how we move from seeing God as the power player in our Shame Web to the core person in our Connection Network.